Fulop, Jersey City Council work to bring $30,000 grant to successful women’s health program

WEES already has provided more than 300 low-income residents with services, from general checkups to emergency visits

A Jersey City program that has proven to be able to provide much-needed medical care to low- and no-income families is getting additional funding.

On Wednesday night, a resolution by Mayor Steve Fulop and the Department of Health and Human Services calling for the use of a $30,000 grant to help the program was approved by the city council.

The innovative program, Women’s Empowerment: Education and Services (better-known as WEES), started last June in a pilot partnership with Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey.

It has been increasing access to critical health care services for women and children living below the poverty line. Since its launch, more than 300 Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, participants in Jersey City have received life-changing services ranging from emergency visits to general checkups.

The resolution utilizes a $30,000 grant awarded to HHS to increase the number of patients served and create an informative, step-by-step WEES replication toolkit for other municipalities and organizations to mirror — ultimately increasing access on a much broader level to vital preventative health services for those who need it most.

“Our pilot program has been an incredible success, as it is a natural extension of the mission of the Jersey City WIC program to provide much-needed reproductive support to our community, and to take it a step further, we include transportation to ensure these critical services are accessible to all,” Fulop said.

“This partnership serves as a prime example of how two organizations can work together to expand the scope of critical services and the reach of resources, and there has never been a more crucial time to make these services accessible than now. We want to double down on this proven successful investment to help even more women and children by growing these services and providing greater access to the quality health care that everyone deserves.”

Expanding the WEES pilot program also includes LBGTQ training programming with Jersey City leaders as well as Recreation and Youth Development staff. It also establishes a Train the Trainer program under the Division of Community Health and Wellness.

Stacey Flanagan, the director of HHS, has been the lead on this pilot program. She has seen its impact.

“This partnership has serviced more than 20% of Jersey City WIC’s eligible (adult female) clientele,” she said. “As encouraging as these numbers are, they don’t even begin to quantify the true scope of this partnership. To date, more than 20% of the individuals who received these services were referred to other community partners, including Medicaid, which help them get other affordable services they might not otherwise receive.”

Reliable transportation is a top social determinant surrounding residents’ health, which is why the city will continue free transportation under the WEES program to encourage more low- and no-income families to seek vital medical care who may otherwise be deterred by such a barrier.

Dr. Randa Francis-Nicholas, vice president of health services for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey, is pleased.

“In partnership with Jersey City’s HHS, PPMNJ has seen great success in serving patients through its WIC program,” she said. “We are committed to this continued strategic partnership that has opened critical access to people seeking sexual and reproductive health access in Hudson County.

“This type of community engagement and partnership provides the essential tools for breaking down barriers to better health care access.”

With the council’s approval, this week’s resolution will allocate grant funding awarded to HHS from the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative. It is one of many grants HHS has been awarded recently as a result of the department’s effectiveness and leadership, especially in a post-pandemic environment.

In addition to the WEES program, HHS recently completed the HealthierJC mini-grant RFP process to allocate a total of over $434,000 in Enhancing Local Public Health Infrastructure and Congressional Appropriation for Workforce Development funding to support 50 local nonprofit organizations. In fact, all eligible applicants received funding. Jersey City’s HHS applied for the ELPHI grants through the New Jersey Association of County and City Health Officials.

The grants, worth upwards of $15,000, will provide much-needed financial assistance to various local nonprofits offering a range of community services from supporting workforce development programming and food pantries to youth development and resource centers.